(By Hondo Kanhema)
To the uninformed hip-hop follower, the recent spike in the popularity of grime music may seem like a new, UK based sub genre of rap becoming popular when in fact, it has a history that dates as far back as the late 90s in the underground scene.
Londons East End has been credited as the birthplace of what we call ‘Grime’ (At the time it was also called Eskibeat, 8bar, Nu shape or Sublow), as the extremely popular rave culture started to die down in the late 90s, with UK Garage becoming the new “soundtrack of the streets”. It wasn’t long before Garage began to fade away, not because of a decrease in popularity, but rather because it was evolving down two different, but slightly similar paths, Dubstep and Grime.
Grime drew influences from rave, reggae as well as UK 2 Step Garage, not only hip-hop like most assume.
Wiley has undisputedly been credited with leading Grime to where it is nowadays, even being called the Godfather of Grime, his influence on the genre is unmatched by his peers. Wiley was a member of the Pay As You Go Cartel and had been known for MCing Garage and Jungle scenes, and was well known for his unique production style, coining it as Eskibeat. After his group Pay As You Go Cartel disbanded, Wiley formed his own collective, Roll Deep with members Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder.
The success of Wiley’s legendary “Eskimo”, a Grime and Eski classic, sprung Wiley, Grime, and his newly formed Roll Deep Crew, into the underground massive, through pirate radio, records, clubs, and clashes with other groups.
After leaving the aforementioned crew Roll Deep, Dizzie Rascal released the hit album, Boy in da Corner, which garnered attention from outside of the Grime scene. As grime became more popular in the UK throughout the mid-2000s, it spread out of London to other major British cities. Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Blackpool and Bristol now have Grime MCs who are currently gaining major exposure in the scene and have featured on Lord of the Mics, an annual DVD released by Boy Better Know’s Jammer featuring Grime artists battling.
In the late 00’s and early 10’s, Grime fell backwards to the underground when it’s companion, Dubstep, reached the mainstream and shifted focus to the loud, abrasive, testosterone fueled festival fodder that is more accurately labelled “Brostep” (quite a terrible name), it shared few of the elements of Dubstep that the Garage Heads loved and cherished in their new creation. Some grime MCs and producers experimented with “Brostep” sounds.
During this time Grime also went through some other changes. Artists like Skepta, Wiley, Tinchy Stryder, Chipmunk, and previously Dizzee Rascal, left Grime and began to make pop oriented music. Wiley even released an album that he went on to disown. Many of the people left in the Grime game began to incorporate elements of hip hop and trap into their beats, while still keeping to the basic elements of 140 BPM and a 2 step beat.
In the 10’s to present, Grime has made its comeback, for many reasons. Dubstep or “Brostep” has fallen from its mainstream status, allowing other underground UK genres to breathe and resurface. Many of the artists who left Grime came back to their new found popularity, boosted in part by the wide net cast by the internet and the ability to quickly and easily share music with a huge audience.
Grime has a very detailed and ample history, with countless beefs, artists, styles and events. As larger names like Skepta, Dizzie and Giggs begin to become more prevalent in the mainstream as well as a growing international following, it’s important to look back to the roots of a continuingly evolving genre, remembering the artists, as well as influences that pioneered the sound.